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The Tinkertoy Computer and Tic-Tac-Toe


10,000 wooden parts contain the rules for Tic Tac Toe. The front contains 9 flags. A human player moves one flag to make his move. Mechanical linkages cause the machine to respond with its answer almost immediately. The machine never loses. The manufacturers of the Tinkertoy Computer are Danny Hillis and Brian Silverman.




Computer purists will ask whether the Tinkertoy contraption really deserves the title "computer." It is not, to be sure, programmable in the usual sense: one cannot sit at a keyboard and type in a program for it to follow. On the other hand, one could certainly change the memory spindles, albeit with some difficulty, and thus reprogram the computer for other games. Imagine a Tinkertoy device that plays go-moku narabe (a game played on an 11-by-11 board in which one player tries to place five black stones in a row while preventing an opponent from creating a row of five white stones). A Tinkertoy computer programmed for go-moku narabe, however, would probably tower into the stratosphere.


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Taken on April 5, 2010